New social movements, technologies, and public-health initiatives often struggle to take off, yet many diseases disperse rapidly without issue. Can the lessons learned from the viral diffusion of diseases be used to improve the spread of beneficial behaviors and innovations? 

Watch the talk. (1 hour 22 minutes)

This talk presented over a decade of original research examining how changes in societal behavior ― in voting, health, technology, and finance ― occur and the ways social networks can be used to influence how they propagate. The startling findings demonstrate how the most well-known, intuitive ideas about social networks have caused past diffusion efforts to fail, and how such efforts might succeed in the future. Pioneering the use of web-based methods to understand how changes in people's social networks alter their behaviors, these findings illustrate the ways in which these insights can be applied to solve countless problems of organizational change, cultural evolution, and social innovation, offering important lessons for public health workers, entrepreneurs, and activists looking to harness networks for social change.

Damon Centola is an associate professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Network Dynamics Group. His research includes social networks, social epidemiology, and web-based experiments on diffusion and cultural evolution. 

Centola has received multiple awards for his research, and was a developer of the NetLogo agent-based modeling environment. He was also awarded a U.S. Patent for inventing a method to promote diffusion in online networks. 

Popular accounts of Centola’s work have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, Wired, TIME, and CNN. He has a forthcoming book (June 2018) with Princeton Press, entitled How Behavior Spreads.

Generous underwriting from Thornburg Investment Management, with additional support from The Lensic Performing Arts Center, makes this series possible.

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